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05/26/2015

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Chrysippus

Hi Marcus,
Thanks, as always, for this really helpful series of posts!
I just have one question: For many of us who are ABD, or perhaps just defended, our research is going to be almost completely exhausted by the dissertation. For people in this situation, in what ways will the research statement differ from a one-page dissertation abstract? I suppose one way would be in saying a bit about future directions of research, but are there other important ways as well?

Marcus Arvan

Hi Chrysippus: Thanks for your kind words, and for your question!

I think a dissertation abstract is simply not enough nowadays. Here's why. I've been told by many people (the job-market consultant I used and people I know who have served on search committees) that one of the single biggest things search committees want to know these days is whether you are likely to get *tenure*. This wasn't such a big deal a few decades ago, when there were a lot of tenure-track positions to go around and a department could just refill a TT line if the person they previously hired didn't get tenure. But things have really changed. These days, hiring someone who won't get tenure is equivalent to a failed search: it is an absolute disaster. Thanks to tight budgets, the department may not get that tenure-track line back again. So, there is a *very* strong incentive to hire someone who looks like a good 'bet' when it comes to tenure. But, what constitutes a good bet? Answer: not a dissertation, but an extended publication record.

Now, of course, if you're ABD, you might not have a publication record. You might only have your dissertation. But, for all that, you need to show that your dissertation is likely to have actually 'legs' in this regard--that it is likely to inspire years and years of publications (which many dissertations don't do!). And this takes spelling out the ways in which you intend to go beyond the dissertation.

In short, and this is admittedly my own sense, I sort of think the traditional 1-page dissertation summary is a bit of an anachronism. Back in the day (a few decades ago), people got hired on the basis of their dissertation. In today's day and age--with university budget cuts and the like--you really need to do more than that. You need to give a search committee a real sense that you have thought about where your research is going, not just where it's been. This can be tough, but again, you don't need to give a ton of details. You just need to give the committee a real sense--in, say, a short paragraph after your diss summary--that you have actually thought about the future of your research and plausibly have a research plan that will lead to multiple publications necessary for tenure!

Chrysippus

Thanks very much as always, Marcus!

anon

this is a great post, thanks a lot!

I have a lot of different directions I might potentially move my research in. Should I mention multiple of these? Just one or two? I don't wish to seem overly scattered, but I also don't want to seem too narrowly specialized. Is there a consensus on whether it is better to really motivate and delve into just one or two projects, or whether it is better to describe 3, 4, or more projects, but at a superficial level?

Marcus Arvan

Anon: Great question! As I explained in another post in the Boot Camp (http://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/2015/04/job-market-boot-camp-part-7-developing-coherent-research-programs.html ), I think it really depends on your CV.

If you are coming right out of grad school, your research statement should focus on your dissertation. Your research statement should only discuss other research programs you have that (A) might be attractive to search committees, and (B) you have an established peer-reviewed publishing record in. Because I have multiple publications in ethics, political philosophy, human rights, and a specific area of metaphysics (free will and quantum phenomena), my research statement gave a narrow overview of each--just enough to whet a reader's appetite. As I explain in this post, your research statement needn't go into great depth. That's what your writing sample and website are for (search committees can always track down your other work, if interested). The research statement should give just enough detail to "hook" the reader, making them want to find out more!

Nassim

Thank you so much for your insights! The link to the research statement is not working, could you fix the bug please? much appreciated.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Nassim: That's odd. I tried the link and it worked fine for me. Can you try again?

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